Warren’s Supporters United In Ambivalence Over Impeachment Call

(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- In the wake of the redacted Mueller report’s release last week, Elizabeth Warren became the first major Democratic presidential candidate to call for Donald Trump’s impeachment. Then she headed to New Hampshire to lay out her rationale to voters. Warren’s impeachment push was the buzz in the crowd at all three events she held over the weekend, and the response among the 30 or so attendees I spoke to was nearly universal: ambivalence.

“I think she’s not afraid to speak out and be the first,” Molly Betancourt, 46, of Keene, said of Warren. “But I don’t know if it’s the right move.”

Paul Kranowski, 64, of Walpole, Massachusetts, showed up early enough to grab a front-row seat at Warren’s first post-impeachment-call event at Keene State College. “It’s one of the reasons I’m here,” said Kranowski, who was still working his way through the Mueller report. But he wasn’t sure if Warren had made the correct call. “It’s a tough question,” he said. “I’m neutral.”

Rickie Harvey and her husband, Ray Porfilio, both 61, were working a crossword puzzle as they waited for Warren to begin. They were having an easier time solving the puzzle than the quandary of whether impeachment was the right way forward for Democrats.

“I have mixed feelings,” said Harvey. “We take a huge risk in the possibility that it helps Trump get reelected.”

“But it’s incumbent for Congress to do what they’ve started to do: go into inquiries,” her husband replied. “We put it on TV and make people pay attention to how horrible he is.”

So should Democrats go all the way an vote to impeach? Harvey look vexed. Portfilio wasn’t entirely sure either. “I think Nancy Pelosi knows what she’s doing,” he said.

At every stop, Warren brought up her impeachment call right away, describing how she’d stayed up late into the night to read the full report. “There were three things you just can’t deny about that report,” she said at a townhall in Weare. “A hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election for the purpose of helping Donald Trump. It’s there, in the report. Donald Trump welcomed that help. And when the federal government tried to investigate it, Donald Trump took many and repeated actions to try to block the investigation.” 

Warren said opening an impeachment inquiry is necessary because “the way the Constitution is set up, Congress is responsible for making sure that we honor the notion of equal justice under the law. No one is above the law—and that included the president of the United States.”

That line reliably drew applause. But it didn’t settle many debates about impeachment. Bob Shanahan, 73, David Erickson, 65, and Joe Fiala, 59, all of Weare, were huddled together listening to Warren and debating each other. “I wouldn’t waste time on impeachment because it won’t get him out of office before 2020,” said Erickson. “I think it’s necessary,” countered Fiala. “I worry the impeachment call will split Democrats,” Shanahan replied.

A handful of people did have strong opinions, some of whom stood up and shared them with Warren—either thanking her for taking a stand or chiding her for a decision they don’t think voters will support. An April 19 Reuters/Ipsos poll found that only 40 percent of voters think Trump should be impeached, while 42 percent said he should not be.

“I think she’s spot on,” said New Hampshire Rep. William Bordy, who attended an Amherst house party for Warren. Letting Trump skate after the malfeasance Mueller brought to light would be “a matter of appeasement. If somebody’s breaking the law, they have to be halted. This is a moral test for Congress.”

Andrea Amodeo-Vickery, 69, disagreed. When Warren finished speaking to the gathering in Amherst, Amodeo-Vickery told the candidate that her decision on impeachment risked too much. “My objection is that while it feels right to do it—we want to rub his nose in it—we can get rid of him in 18 months, without risking the alienation of independents and moderate Republicans,” she said.

This was the calculus that everyone who’d come to see Warren was trying to work out. While most hadn’t settled on a clear answer, nearly everyone came away convinced of Warren’s forthrightness and open to supporting her—even those who disagree with her on impeachment.

Pamela Tcharkovski, 62, a school tutor in Keene, had begun reading the Mueller report and showed up two hours early, undecided on which candidate she’d support and eager to hear Warren’s rationale for impeachment. Tscharkovski worries that attempting to remove Trump could backfire. “It’s a very strong step to go for impeachment, and I haven’t gotten there myself,” she said.

But she left having settled on one thing: Warren is her candidate anyway.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jillian Goodman at jgoodman74@bloomberg.net

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